By Tom Holste
Jul. 29, 2015
This summer, Hollywood was taken completely off guard when Jurassic World broke the $1 billion dollar threshold – making even more than the latest Avengers sequel, and finally topping even the original Avengers film itself.
To be fair, The Avengers: Age of Ultron also crossed the $1 billion dollar mark, and it stands in the top 10 highest-grossing films ever made globally (not adjusted for inflation). But it was nosed out of the top 5 by the fourth installment in the ongoing Jurassic film series, and by Furious 7, also from this year and also from Universal Pictures. (Furious 7 benefits from audience interest following the untimely death of star Paul Walker. It’ll be interesting to see if later installments can maintain this level of popularity.)
Take a look at the top grossing films of all time worldwide here, with Jurassic World at #3 and Furious 7 at #5:
Now take a look at the box office for this year in America. In this case, Avengers has slightly edged out Furious 7 (as well as Inside Out), but Jurassic World still clearly has Iron Man and his friends beat.
People in Hollywood expected Jurassic to do well — it was heavily marketed, and the film had Chris Pratt in it, fresh off his successes in The LEGO Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy, after all — but no one expected a belated entry in a long-dormant franchise to do this well.
The original Avengers had stunned Hollywood in pretty much the same way. All of the various Marvel superhero movies up to that point had been successes, but none of them had gone on to be one of the top five highest grossing movies of all time. Avengers proved that Marvel’s experiment in creating a shared cinematic universe for its fictional characters had worked beyond their wildest expectations. So, naturally, Hollywood experts figured that the sequel would do just as well if not more so. They thought that Jurassic would be a pleasant side dish for movie audiences, not turn out to be the main course.
While Marvel (and their parent company Disney) really doesn’t have any reason to cry, they must be scratching their heads a little bit. What happened? Why didn’t Avengers clearly run away with the top prize?
Here are my thoughts on that, for what they’re worth:
—Viewers are experiencing franchise fatigue. At the time of this writing, Marvel has just released Ant-Man, the 12th film in the Avengers franchise in the past 7 years. That’s not counting 44 hours (2 years’ worth) of its related Agents of SHIELD TV series, an 8-episode Agent Carter miniseries, and 13 hours of Daredevil on Netflix. And all that’s just within the shared Avengers universe. In the same period of time, other studios that own Marvel characters have released four more X-Men related films, two more Spider-Man movies, one sequel each for Punisher and Ghost Rider, and an animated Marvel film (Big Hero 6).
In a few weeks, we’ll get a new Fantastic Four film, and next year promises five new Marvel-related films, three of which tie into X-Men and all get released within the same year. Marvel is already in production on new episodes of Daredevil, SHIELD and Agent Carter, while developing more Netflix series. And we can expect 10 more Marvel-related films between 2017 and 2019, including Infinity War: Parts 1 and 2, a 120-page comic book miniseries needlessly stretched out to 240 minutes’ worth of film.
At some point, this no longer sounds like fun. It sounds like homework.
Suddenly, Jurassic World sounds like a welcome relief, a throwback to a simpler time when a movie had a lot fewer sequels and tie-ins. Going to the movies is supposed to be fun, and Jurassic offered a much easier way to have fun.
Notably, Ant-Man – while arriving at #1 at the box office, and receiving strong praise from critics and fans – had the weakest opening weekend of any of the 12 Avengers-related films so far. There are probably multiple reasons for that, but I wouldn’t doubt if one of them is that it’s just been too hard to stay caught up.
To be clear, the superhero franchise isn’t dead. Ant-Man was a bit of a long shot anyway, and next year’s Batman v. Superman will likely demolish all kinds of box office records because its main characters are much more famous. But a little bit of audience fatigue can explain why Jurassic pulled ahead of Avengers when the latter seemed to be the more anticipated film.
To be continued